The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview
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"I DO not know anything about Eck up to the present, except that he has come barbed, bulled, and provided with money." Thus wrote Luther to a friendly canon in Merseburg on September 28.1 It was true. The hostile Dominican had arrived in Saxony with the bull and had hastened to post it on the cathedral doors in Duke George's city of Meissen, with the observation of all the formalities required by the canon law.2 Within another week he had repeated this ceremony at the Saxon episcopal see in Merseburg and at the capital of Luther's own diocese in Brandenburg. Thence he returned to Leipzig and prepared for further publication. Spalatin was away in the Rhineland with the elector in attendance on the coronation festivities of the new emperor. This probably explains why, in spite of the fact that the text of the bull had been posted on three sides of him within a radius of fifty miles, Martin seems to have remained in ignorance as to what definite points in his doctrine were condemned until several weeks after Eck opened his campaign in Saxony.3

Letter to Günter von Bünau, Sept. 28, 1520, W AB, II, 187, l. 29.
On September 21. Kalkoff refers to Eck's letter to William, duke of Bavaria, on December 11. "Zu Luthers römischem Prozess", ZKG, XXV, 534. See also Riederer, Beytrag zu den Reformationsurkunden, pp. 109 ff.; also Joseph Greving introductory comments in "Briefmappe. Erstes Stück", RgST, XXI/ XXII ( 1912), 196.
The general tenor of the bull was known to humanistic circles in Western Germany by the middle of September. See Hutten's letter to the elector on September 11 from the Ebernburg, in Hutten, Opera, I, 383 ff. I cannot follow Kalkoff ( "Zu Luthers r6mischem Prozess", ZKG, XXV, 523) in assuming that Hutten was necessarily acquainted with the contents of the bull when he wrote this letter. Erasmus, especially, appears to have had inside sources of information at Rome that promptly communicated to him matters in progress at the Vatican. Aleander, papal delegate at Worms, complained bitterly to Medici of spies at the Roman court who were in contact with its enemies in Germany, so that every word of his dispatches was promptly reported back. Theodor Brieger, "Aleander und Luther, 1521"," Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Reformation, pp. 27, 41; Kalkoff, Depeschen, pp. 50, 59. He says also that the bull was printed in Germany before it had been published at Rome. In view of Luther's ignorance of the text until October 11, it does not seem at all likely that the bull had been printed on the Rhine a month earlier.


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